Study Guide

Psalm 23 ("The Lord is My Shepherd") Happiness

By David

Happiness

We think it's useful to compare Psalm 23 to the story of Job, also from early Hebrew scriptures (or the Old Testament). Job was a good guy who was put through horrendous hardships, but continued to have faith in God. By contrast, the speaker of Psalm 23 also seems to be a good guy, but we don't know if he's ever been tested. You could compare him to Job before the poor guy went through the ringer.

Everything is going the speaker's way; he has all the physical and spiritual nourishment he needs, and he feels immune from the evils of that terrifying valley of death. But wait – he doesn't say that evil things won't happen to him, he just says he doesn't fear them. He doesn't expect God to prevent bad things from happening, but he thinks that if they do come up he can rely on God's "comfort" to get through it.

Questions About Happiness

  1. Does the speaker's happiness depend on his good fortune? In other words, would he be giving thanks to God even if there weren't "green pastures" and "still waters" all around him?
  2. Do you think the poem has more to do with spiritual well-being or with physical well-being? Why does the speaker focus so much on food and comfort?
  3. Is the speaker being naïve to assume that his continued happiness is assured "forever"?
  4. Does the psalm give any suggestion of heaven or an afterlife?

Chew on This

The reader shouldn't interpret the speaker's view that his happiness is assured too literally; rather, it must be taken in the context of an expression of thanksgiving that's given directly to God.

Spiritual happiness and the salvation of the soul are actually more important to the speaker than his physical well-being.

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